Somehow in the hustle of growing a business and the bustle of raising children, I never found the time for what seemed like the unnecessary extravagance of hobbies. As I look back on those years, I also see a stressed-out, often angry-for-no-apparent-reason young man who probably needed the outlet that a hobby would have provided.
I turned 50 last year. This older, and possibly wiser, version of myself seems to have finally embraced the rejuvenating role of hobbies. I discovered that I love fishing (or rather catching), golf (yes, I’m horrible but what a great excuse to be outside), and riding motorcycles. I embraced all three of those in the past year in ways that border on the fanatical. And it has been beyond good for me, in both body and soul.
Recently, a friend asked me how an introverted leader like me protects my energy and re-fuels my tank so as to not feel constantly depleted. Introverts who are leaders have to perform a lot of extroverted tasks that can deplete our energy quickly. We often marvel at our extroverted friends who seem to have a never-ending supply of energy no matter how many people they interact with! For them, it seems the more people the merrier. For us introverts, let’s just say, less is more.
One key I’ve already alluded to is having healthy, life-giving hobbies—but not just any kind of hobby. What we want are hobbies that make us feel young again. Rejuvenation. The word literally means “to be made young again.” When I’m coaching a stressed-out leader, that is my go-to question: What did you do for fun as a kid? Personally, when I was much younger, I could not get enough of the outdoors. I loved to hike and camp, jump ramps on my BMX bike and ride a mini-bike much faster than I should have. As I grew, so did my toys. The mini-bike gave way to a motocross bike, then a convertible muscle car. But the loves remained: being outside and going fast.
What I discovered as I went through this simple exercise of reflecting on my childhood, is that I loved the outdoors, taking risks, and going fast. Riding motorcycles off-road hits all those buttons! I really enjoy nature, especially at high speeds.
In his article “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time,” author Tony Schwartz reminds us that we all have the same amount of time, but our energy levels are different. When we manage our energy, we are able to use our available time more fully. With more energy, the time we have seems to expand and we’re able to get more done. In this way, the path to getting more done is often counter-intuitive: Stop working, rest deeply, rejuvenate. Then come back to the tasks at hand with renewed energy.
For Jewish people, this is baked right into their weekly religious practice as a Saturday sabbath. Christians often substitute Sunday for the Saturday but the idea is similar. And, culturally, these practices have led us to what we call “the weekend,” even though it’s really two days with one day being the end and the other the start of the new week. But let’s not be picky about words! Most people get a couple of days off per week and that is a good thing, if at all possible.
A tricky thing about weekends, though, is that it can be easy to not really take them as downtime. This is especially true in this digital age where we have great tools that can become chains that bind us to a never-ending cycle of work. Yes, I’m talking about our smartphones. I have a love-hate relationship with mine. On the one hand, it is like a Swiss Army knife of digital tools in my pocket at all times. On the other, it allows me to be at work 24/7. What if our weeks went to 24/6 or even 24/5? What if we could actually take one or two days off completely every week? And the key word here is “completely.”
I have a friend and mentor who talks about days off in archery terms. Days off work are like pulling the bowstring back. The further you pull the bowstring back, the further the arrow flies when it is released. The more rest we get, the better we are able to perform at our work. Our rest leads to the arrows of productivity flying much further.
How do leaders, especially introverted ones, protect their energy and refill their emotional tanks? Less screens and more sky for me. Rhythmic periods of rest every week; week in and week out.
How about you? What makes you feel young again? Do more of that this year and you may just get the added benefit of getting more done at the same time.